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UFF Biweekly
United Faculty of Florida -- USF System Chapter
12 January 2012
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The first UFF USF Chapter Meeting of the year will be tomorrow, Friday, at 12 noon in EDU 150. The chapter meetings for this semester have been scheduled for alternating Fridays: on January 13, February 10 (when there will be a presentation on union membership benefits; see the Join UFF Today announcement), March 9, April 6, and April 20, we will meet at noon on USF-Tampa in EDU 150. We are also scheduled to meet on January 27 at USF-St. Petersburg, on February 24 at USF-Sarasota/Manatee, and on March 23 at USF-Polytechnic, at noon, at places TBA. There will be sandwiches, soda pop, and chips, and all UFF USF employees UFF members and others are welcome. Come and join the movement.


Download, fill in, and mail the membership form. Benefits of membership include the right to run and vote in UFF chapter and statewide elections; representation in grievances (UFF cannot represent a non-member in a grievance or future litigation); greater opportunities for influencing the bargaining agenda; special deals in insurance, travel, legal advice, and other packages provided by our affiliates (there will be a presentation on these benefits at our February 10 Chapter Meeting); free insurance coverage for job-related liability; and the knowledge you are supporting education in Florida. Come and join the movement.


All sorts of interesting bills seem to be en route to the legislature this term, and the Florida Education Association is already thinking about how to deal with them. One way to deal with a really bad bill is to persuade a lot of constituents back home to let their legislators know what they think of the proposed legislation. This technique may well be unusually effective in a redistricting & election year. So it is possible that sometime or sometimes this semester, there will be a quick broadcast of the Biweekly giving a heads up about a particular piece of legislation. Remember that whenever letting your legislator know your views on any subject, since you are probably contacting a staff member by email or phone (or text!), be polite, concise, to the point, and use only your personal phone, computer, etc., to contact legislators.


Student Health Services now offers minor acute healthcare to USF employees: colds and flu symptoms, cuts and scrapes, rashes, itches, smoking cessation, travel health and more. Appointments will be available Monday to Friday from 8 am to 11 am. They will bill your health insurance directly for covered services; if you do not have insurance, there is a $40 office visit fee. For a complete list of services, fees and accepted insurance plans, visit www.shs.usf.edu or call 813-974-2331. NOTE: they cannot see worker's compensation illness or injury.


GETTING ORGANIZED. This spring, we will be getting organized in both meanings of the word. We will be launching another membership recruiting campaign to ask the employees in the UFF USF Bargaining Unit to join the union. And we will be looking at the chapter's organizational structure to see how it should be adjusted to better serve a growing membership. Both notions of organizing are on the agenda tomorrow, Friday, at 12 noon, in EDU 150. For more, see below.

ASKING QUESTIONS IN AND OUT OF CLASS. Classes started Monday, and among the more irritating problems for teachers are students who don't understand and yet don't ask questions in or out of class. A recent study reminds us that our students come from a variety of backgrounds, and this may affect whether they ask questions. For more, see below.



A labor union is a group of workers joined together to defend and improve the terms and conditions of their employment. A union may also work in the general interest out of the professional concerns of its members. More narrowly, a union bargains and enforces a contract. How broadly or how narrowly a union interprets its mandate depends on the views of its members and its available resources.

The United Faculty of Florida has been bargaining and enforcing contracts between the Board of Governors and now, the Board of Trustees and the faculty and professionals of USF since 1976.

  • Bargaining means that we have a Chief Negotiator (currently Professor Bob Welker of Accounting) who leads a Bargaining Committee, which meets with representatives of the USF Board of Trustees to bargain a contract. (We currently have a contract, the 2010 2013 Collective Bargaining Agreement, and in fall, we will start negotiating the next contract.)
  • Enforcement means that whenever the Board of Trustees or their representatives i.e., the Administration violates the contract, a grievance is filed to repair the violation. USF employees can file grievances, and so can the UFF USF chapter itself; dues-paying UFF members have the right to be represented by the union in a grievance.
But as union membership grows, that membership provides the Bargaining Committee with more information and more desiderata for the next contract. Meanwhile, more members ask the union for assistance in grievances. Moreover, a large union has more resources to provide more services, from facilitating interdisciplinary scholarship to helping junior faculty get started. On the other hand, USF itself has grown much larger, and the various colleges and campuses need and deserve the union's attention.

So while we conduct the spring's recruitment drive, we are also reinventing our union. Everyone is invited to join, and every member is invited asked to participate in making the union a more effective advocate for faculty and professionals at USF. The chapter's organization is on the agenda for Friday's Chapter meeting, and in preparation please look our current Constitution and Bylaws.


With the beginning of a new semester, USF teachers across all four campuses are confronting the age-old problem of students who don't ask questions.

Of course, we reassure students that there are no stupid questions. Some of us try gimmicks, like handing out candies to questioners. But all of us eventually confront that sea of blank, closed faces when we ask, "Any questions?"

This is a social phenomenon, which means that the social scientists (you know, those non-STEM people Governor Scott wants to dispense with) have been looking into classrooms to find out what's going on. And it seems that for some time, sociologists have noticed the following interesting coincidence:

  • "Middle class" elementary schoolchildren tend to get their questions answered more readily in class than "working class" schoolchildren.
  • In practically every measure, "middle class" schoolchildren do better academically than "working class" schoolchildren.
This has led to several theories about prejudiced teachers, but another explanation is surfacing, as reported in the January 4 Chicago Tribune article Asking for help isn't easy for some students, which reported that "Kids from working-class families less likely to ask questions in class than middle-class counterparts, study finds."

The article is based on a study conducted by University of Pennsylvania graduate student Jessica Calarco, "I Need Help!" Social Class and Children's Help-Seeking in Elementary School, recently published in the American Sociology Review (ASR 2011 76:862, DOI: 10.1177/0003122411427177, available through the USF libraries via campus computers). Calarco observed students in a mixed-class elementary school and observed how students obtained or didn't obtain help.

Middle-class students feel "entitled" yes, Calarco uses the word to have help. Middle-class students raise their hands, call out questions, march up to teacher, and employ numerous means to get their teacher's attention and assistance. On rare occasions, teacher may think it's a bit much, but almost always teacher politely and reassuringly provides help.

Meanwhile, working-class students raise their hands half-way (sometimes briefly) and a few actually speak out on occasion. Calarco described one working-class kid who crept up to teacher and, comically wriggling and writhing, managed to blurt out a question. But all too often, working-class students did not emulate their middle-class peers, even if they are playmates. They did not feel "entitled" again, Calarco's word to teacher's assistance.

There have been other studies suggesting that middle-class parents actually teach their children to ask questions. This may be necessary because there may be a power issue here: a question is often a demand for attention, and is often made by someone of higher status to someone of lower status (ever notice how many conversations between newly introduced adult and child consists of questions by the adult delivered to the child?). This pattern suggests why a student with a working-class background may not ask a question or ask for help, even when explicitly told to do so.

Many USF students come from "working-class" backgrounds, and not a few are from families that have never sent a student to college before. So we frustrated teachers may be up against a basic subcultural problem. Unfortunately, the educational psychologists have not come up with a solution yet, so we will have to be creative.

Maybe a bowlful of candies...


Next Chapter Meeting tomorrow, Friday, January 13, at noon, in EDU 150, on USF -Tampa.

Sandwiches & sodas are provided by the union, and all UFF members are invited to attend. Non-members are also invited to come and check us out. Come and join the movement.

Membership: Everyone in the UFF USF System Bargaining unit is eligible for UFF membership: to join, simply fill out and send in the membership form.

NOTE: The USF-UFF Chapter website is http://www.uff.ourusf.org, and our e-mail address is uff@ourusf.org.

About this broadcast: This Newsletter was broadcast from uff.ourusf.org, hosted at ICDsoft.com, and is intended for all members of the UFF USF Bargaining unit (USF faculty and professionals at most departments). A (usually identical) version will be broadcast to USF-News and USF-Talk from mccolm@usf.edu.

If you do not want to receive the UFF Biweekly, you can unsubscribe below. If you do not receive the Biweekly, but want to, e-mail a message to mccolm@usf.edu.

The UFF also sends out a biannual hardcopy newsletter, Uncommon Sense, to the entire unit. Past issues of Uncommon Sense are posted on-line. Articles from past issues of the Biweekly are also posted on-line.